Seamus Costello – Quotes, Writings & Funeral – UPDATED 2019
Seamus Costello was a Republican Socialist who belonged to the Irish Republic Socialist Party. He was born in 1939 in County Willow of Ireland to a middle-class family and went to the Christian Brothers College in Monkstown Park. At the age of 15, he left school to become a mechanic. Later, he became a car salesman at Dublin.
He became a part of the Sin Féin and the Irish Republican Army soon after he left school. In just a year, he was in command of a service unit in Derry. He earned the name ‘the Boy General’ due to his leadership skills and the incidents like the burning of the courthouse in Magherafelt. His unit was known for their destruction of bridges.
In 1957, he was imprisoned for 6 months in the Mountjoy Gaol, following which he was interned in the Curragh Prison Camp for two years when he was released. He studied during his time in prison and was very interested in and inspired by the independence struggle of the Vietnamese. He studied the socialist theory and about nationalist movements. He was part of the escape committee that managed the escapes of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill and others. He worked on the republican movement after he was released and became a strong supporter of the left-wing orientation of the movement and became involved in farmers’ organisations and credit union movements. He formed a tenants’ association and won elections to the local government.
Seamus Costello & The Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Seamus Costello joined the IRA when he was 16. On account of the work he did after his release from Gaol, he was given the rank of Adjutant-General of the Irish Republican Army. In 1969, when ‘The Troubles’ were happening in the six counties, there were factions created within the Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army, and the movement became divided into the Provisional and the Official movements. Costello stayed with the Official Movement, serving as the Vice-President of the Official Sinn Féin. He believed that a socialist economic policy was more important than the warfare of the Provisionals.
He was also a staff officer of the Official Irish Republican Army and serving as the Director of Operations for the Official IRA. In 1972, Costello was disappointed by the ceasefire of the Official IRA and started to oppose the leadership. He was subjected to court-martial in the year 1974 and was expelled from the group.
In December of 1974, the Irish Republic Socialist Party (IRSP) was founded at a meeting near Dublin, with Costello as its Chairperson. On the same day, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was also formed at a private meeting, with Costello as its first leader. The Irish Republic Socialist Movement (IRSM) and the Official IRA became involved in a feud, which resulted in an assassination attempt on the leader of the Official IRA, Sean Garland. Seamus Costello was replaced by Eddy McNicholl as the Irish National Liberation Army chief-of-staff in the July of 1976 but remained Chairman of the IRSP.
Seamus Costello Funeral
A truce was reached between the Official IRA and the IRSM. However, in retaliation to the death of a commander of the Official IRA, Billy McMillen, Costello was assassinated in 1977 by the Official IRA despite the truce. He was allegedly shot in his car by a member of the Official IRA, Jim Flynn. No side took responsibility, and the killing was condemned in a statement issued by Official Sinn Féin/Workers Party. Till date, Seamus Costello is the only Irish party leader to be killed.
The INLA declared Flynn as the murderer. He was also shot in 1982 in Dublin. Costello was the head of both the IRSP and the INLA from the date of their formation till 1976 and was still chairperson of the IRSP at the time of his death. He was a member of several councils, committees, organizations and unions at the time of his death, such as the Wicklow County Council, County Wicklow Committee of Agriculture, General Council of Committees of Agriculture, Cualann Historical Society, Bray Urban District Council and the Bray and District Trade Unions Council.
His funeral was attended by Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the then president of Sinn Féin, Michael O'Riordan of the Communist Party of Ireland, Bernadette McAliskey and local Wicklow TDs Liam Kavanagh (Labour), Ciarán Murphy (Fianna Fáil) and Godfrey Timmins (Fine Gael). At his funeral, former Senator Nora Connolly O'Brien, daughter of the Easter Rising leader James Connolly, gave the oration.
"Of all the politicians and political people with whom I have had conversations and who called themselves followers of Connolly, he was the only one who truly understood what James Connolly meant when he spoke of his vision of the freedom of the Irish people."
Seamus Costello Quotes
Costello stood for an idea that combined socialist economic policies and Irish republicanism. He was dead against capitalism,
"Against robber-rights, I will be able to fight to their destruction or my very own."
On the subject of replacement Ireland, he said
"We need to create a society wherever our kids will board peace and prosperity, a society wherever they'll management the wealth of this country."
He said about the Official Republican Movement’s Reformist Direction,
"They unheeded the presence of 15,000 troops on the streets. They unheeded the torture and terror perpetrated by nation Army on the Nationalist population and then they acted as if there was no amendment within the state of affairs since 1969."
Of his party, he said
"We must make no secret of the fact that we are a revolutionary party, prepared to give leadership on the streets as well as in the elected chambers & that we are out for a revolutionary state"
About the role of the IRSP and the INLA, he said
"Any revolutionary movement that can't defend its own membership, and can't demonstrate its capability of defense of its own membership, goes out of business anyway. we have a tendency to in the business as a heavy revolutionary organization and that we aren't about to be placed out of business by anybody. The IRSP is organized and it's here to remain."
Seamus Costello In Remembrance
In 2017 to mark the 40th anniversary of his assassination, the IRSP held a commemoration in his home town of Bray Co Wicklow and marched to his graveside with James Connolly memorial Flute Band (Derry City) and the James Hope Republican Socialist band from Belfast. IRSP Cumain from Belfast, Derry, Strabane, Cork and Dublin were also well represented as were local members of the Seamus Costello Commemoration Committee.
Over the last few years, anti-imperialist action Ireland holds a memorial lecture around the time of his anniversary in the Wicklow area.